What, then, is equality?
According to our young student, equality means rich and poor people should receive the same medical service. Allowing some patients to pay for earlier treatment is discrimination against the poor and jeopardizes their welfare. You may argue that the problem only exists when an institute practises private and public services at the same time. In a broader sense, however, unless the supply of healthcare workers is unlimited, the private market drags manpower away from the public system and affects the waiting time and service quality similarly.
Many people would object to the student’s idea of equality. It violates the freedom of choice. If people are not allowed to buy what they want, there will be limited incentives for working. As my co-interviewer said, this would be the path to communism.
Nevertheless, in the case of medical care, freedom of choice is not the only issue. Most of us would not mind the rich buying a Porsche while the sports cars are inaccessible to people less well-off. In contrast, it would be unacceptable if firefighters would only come after payment by victims. Therefore, the root of the problem is what we consider as essential care.